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Graduate students compete to explain their research the best in three minutes or less

Friday, Jan. 3, 2017

Grad student

A graduate student competes in Kansas State University's 2016 Three Minute Thesis Competition. This year's event will be Feb. 8 and 16. | Download this photo.


MANHATTAN — Theses and dissertations can be more than 80,000 words and take hours to present, but graduate students in a competition at Kansas State University have just three minutes and one slide to convey their often highly-technical research to a lay audience.

In partnership with the Office of the Vice President for Research and the University Distinguished Professors Group, the university's Graduate School will host the second Three Minute Thesis Competition, or 3MT, Feb. 8 and 16.

Thirty-five graduate students will compete in the preliminary rounds of the competition from 2:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, at the College of Business Building. Eight students will advance to the final competition at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, in the Alumni Center Banquet Room.

Both the preliminary heats and the final competition are open to the campus and general public.

The 3MT competition began in 2008 at the University of Queensland, Australia, and has since spread to at least 170 universities in 17 countries around the world. The challenge of 3MT is to encourage graduate students to hone their science communication skills by learning to present a compelling oration on their thesis topic and its significance.

Other institutions in the United States that have participated in the Three Minute Thesis Competition understand the importance it has not only on its students, but on its community as well.

"Oklahoma State University uses our 3MT presenters to represent the diversity and value of graduate education to our constituents and community," said Ken Clinkenbeard, associate dean of the Graduate College at the university. "Our students learn how to speak concisely, be understandable and be engaging to public audiences, which is the best representation of the value of graduate education and the benefit to the public."

The University of Minnesota's 2015 3MT winner, Sakeen Kashem, doctoral student in medical science, appreciated the opportunity to improve his presentation and communication skills.

"The 3MT removes the crutches of complicated graphs, data, animation and multiple slides and allows you to really focus on the fundamentals, as to serve as a building block for a regular scientific presentation," Kashem said. "When I give talks now, I try to apply what I learned from the 3MT by making the tough concepts and complex data more approachable to the audience with the aid of key words and diagrams."

The top two presenters will be awarded a scholarship, with the first-place winner receiving a $500 scholarship and serving as K-State's representative at the MAGS 3MT®competition April 5-7 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Second place will be awarded a $250 scholarship. The audience will participate by voting for the people's choice winner, who receives a $125 scholarship.

Three noted Manhattan residents will make up the panel to judge the winners at the final competition: Bill Snyder, K-State football coach; Usha Reddi, mayor of Manhattan; and Tom Giller, Commerce Bank Manhattan president

Judging criteria is centered on three core competencies:

• Communication style: Was the thesis topic and its significance communicated in language appropriate to a nonspecialist audience?

• Comprehension: Did the presentation help the audience understand the research?

• Engagement: Did the oration make the audience want to know more?

"The 3 Minute Thesis Competition will provide Manhattan and the K-State community with an entertaining way to learn about the diversity of research and scholarly engagement being conducted by K-State graduate students," said Carol Shanklin, dean of the K-State Graduate School. "I encourage the K-State and Manhattan community to take advantage of this opportunity and support our 3 Minute Thesis Competition."

The 3MT is just one way the Graduate School looks to challenge graduate students to effectively communicate their research. The school also hosts research forums in the fall and spring semesters, which provide graduate students a time to practice presenting their research to a broad group of people.

Any questions about K-State's Three Minute Thesis Competition can be directed to Megan Miller, mmmiller@k-state.edu, the Graduate School's student services coordinator.


Megan Miller


Three Minute Thesis Competition

Written by

Kelsey Peterson